Fox personality Tucker Carlson speaks at the 2017 Business Insider Ignition: Future of Media conference in New York in November 2017. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Media critic

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is famous for challenging guests on dubious statements. He badgers them; he goads them; he needles them; and when they fail to meet his standards, he goes with the high-pitched laugh.

Heather Mac Donald, the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, is a different sort of guest, one who comes on the show to validate everything that the host believes. “First of all, Tucker, I want to commend you for making the breakdown of marriage a central focus of your show. There’s no bigger social catastrophe of our age than the fact that more and more children are being raised without their fathers,” said Mac Donald after she was introduced on the Thursday night edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Those supportive comments came after day in which Carlson received criticism for his remarks on the previous night’s show. Noting that the manufacturing sector has crumbled in the United States, he argued, “In many areas, women suddenly made more than men. Now, before you applaud that as a victory for feminism, consider some of the effects. Study after study has shown that when men make less than women, women generally don’t want to marry them. Now maybe they should want to marry them, but they don’t.”

The HuffPost headlined, “Tucker Carlson Blames Higher-Earning Women For ‘Men In Decline.’ ” Salon: “Fox’s Tucker Carlson claims there is ‘more drug and alcohol abuse’ in areas where women outearn men.” The Wrap: “Tucker Carlson Says Women Out-Earning Men Causes ‘Alcohol Abuse,’ ‘Higher Incarceration Rates.' " The women of “The View” mocked him.

The criticism stung, as Carlson replayed a portion of the discussion on “The View” and later lamented that his argument was “not on the list of approved talking points, so it can’t ever be said out loud. Those are the rules, and anyone who violates those rules must be punished.”

After some more sermonizing about conformity, Carlson asked Mac Donald to riff on families and men and women. She stated, in part, “There’s a lot of females who are angry — angry for no reason at all. They have an ax to grind, a chip on their shoulder, and they’re constantly looking for ways to feel offended, mostly by dredging up sexism from the past because it’s almost impossible to find today,” said Mac Donald. “I mean, you have females that are excelling in education. There’s not a single mainstream institution that is not twisting itself into knots to hire and promote as many females as possible. And yet females are still wringing their hands over the alleged sexism of the ’50s simply so they can feel like they’re victims. Preposterous.”

Bolding added because it’s impossible to resist in these instances.

Consider that Mac Donald was making an allegation that it’s impossible to find sexism on the same network that less than two years ago parted ways with top anchor Bill O’Reilly following revelations that he and the network had paid millions and millions of dollars to settle claims that he had sexually harassed or just plain verbally abused women in the workplace. And less than a year before that, this same network parted ways with top executive Roger Ailes after a sexual harassment suit from former host Gretchen Carlson uncorked a gusher of legitimate sexual harassment claims against him. 21st Century Fox paid $20 million to settle Carlson’s claims. Perhaps Mac Donald considers all of that misogyny, not sexism.

Also: Harvey Weinstein and Les Moonves. But those were only on the front pages of the New York Times.

Nor is it hard to find information on the stubborn gender wage gap.

And about that “alleged sexism” of the ‘50s: You don’t need to dial the clock that far back to find soul-crushing, institutional sexism. Try the 1970s, as this passage from Gail Collins’s excellent book “When Everything Changed” notes:

By the mid-'70s, anyone who was unaware that there was a women’s movement was living under a rock, and for all the controversy over the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion, there were large parts of the women’s agenda that had overwhelming national support. Even an ardent traditionalist was likely to say that women deserved the same access to mortgages and credit cards as men. But American financial institutions didn’t respond of their own volition. Women were still being asked whether they planned to have children when they applied for a car loan. In 1974 Kathryn Kirschbaum, the mayor of Davenport, Iowa, was told she could not have a BankAmerica card unless she got her husband’s signature. Billie Jean King was the winner of three Wimbledon titles in a single year and was supporting her household with the money she made from tennis. But she could not get a credit card unless it was in the name of her husband, a law student with no income. Letters urging Larry King to apply for credit cards arrived in the mail regularly, “and I’m the one getting him through school. I get zip,” she recalled.

Pitting women against men isn’t a new programming trick for Carlson; he did several segments last year on men in America. Such material also surfaces in his book “Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution.” A protracted section details the “crisis of men in America,” deploring how “millions of American men make less than their fathers did”; how out-of-wedlock births increase “when men made less”; and other troubling conditions. “A society filled with idle men is an unstable society,” writes Carlson, “At best, it’s a sad place. Men need to work or they fall apart. Work is central to a man’s identity in a way that it is not for the average woman.”

When we first read that contention on identity, we emailed Carlson to see if he’d floated the notion with any of his female colleagues at Fox News. How did they respond? We also asked about the example of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her legendary — perhaps counterproductive — commitment to work. Carlson wrote back via email, “It’s not a matter of asking female co-workers, you shallow left-wing moron. It’s social science. Are men or women more likely to commit suicide after becoming unemployed? That’s the clearest measure I can give you. Not that you care. Remarkably, you still have a job.”

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